The dog days of summer are nearly here – some might say they already are - and the holiday season is just around the corner.
Whether you are planning a staycation or travelling further afield with your canine companion, there are some important things to consider so that you both have as relaxing and as fun a time as possible.
A break from the norm
Holidays often mean a change in routine. This might relate to exercise, diet or even how much time you get to spend with your dog. For some dogs, adapting to change is easy and they are hugely resilient – indeed, some dogs appear to thrive off changes!
For others, it can be rather more stressful – travel might be a concern for some dogs, especially unusual travel such as ferries or trains. Location might cause worry - perhaps a holiday home, with different smells and noises, or sleeping in an unfamiliar place. Their amount of exercise might increase significantly, especially if you are in walking country or near a beach. They might even have dietary changes in the same way we might treat ourselves to tasty foods when on holiday. For some dogs, even a change in drinking water can cause concern and lead to behavioural changes around eating and drinking.
Consistency is key
If your dog does show signs of stress or worry around holiday time, there are some simple measures you can take to help them.
Keeping their diet the same is a good start – try not to be tempted to change foods or ingredients fed suddenly and take their usual food with you. If you are traveling abroad and this is not an option (always check local regulations before travel) then plan ahead and investigate what you can purchase on arrival, making sure it is as similar as possible to their current diet. Sensitive dogs might benefit from digestive help during the holiday season. For example, Healthy Tummy can be added to their food to support their digestive system.
Different drinking water can be a problem for some dogs – I remember one of my dogs carefully sniffing and reluctantly tasting his drinking water when we visited a known hard-water location. He had to be carefully tempted to drink thanks to expensive bottles of mineral water instead!
If your dog can be picky about drinking unfamiliar water, take some bottles filled with your usual tap water with you and gradually mix in the new water. You might even add water to their food to encourage fluid intake. This is important to avoid dehydration risks, especially in warmer weather.
It’s not just their diet
Try to keep bedding, toys and even exercise type and amount as consistent as possible too. You might want to suddenly climb mountains or trek for miles each day on holiday, but if your dog is used to a more sedate lifestyle, take it easy with them initially. Gradually build up the length and intensity of exercise. This is important to reduce the chance of overexertion and possible injury. Even too much swimming can result in the painful condition of ‘swimmers tail’ and might need a trip to the local vet.
Indeed, it is useful to know where there is a local vet if you are away from home on holiday – the only time I didn’t do this, was when one of my dogs needed urgent veterinary care. It has become a standard preparation for me now before travelling as a result!
Beat the heat
Heat-related illness can be a real risk for our dogs. As the weather warms up, helping to keep our dogs cool, safe and comfortable is key. Did you know that most dogs arriving at vets with heatstroke actually developed it while exercising and not from being in hot cars?
Avoid exercising your dog when temperatures are high, and the sun is shining, and certainly no strenuous or high intensity activity. Pavements and other surfaces can become surprisingly hot, and our dogs can struggle to cool down – remember that dogs primarily cool down by panting and not by sweating. If they start panting in an already hot environment, their ability to cool is significantly limited, so provide shade and a fresh, clean source of drinking water at all times.
Just because your dog is happy to go for a walk or chase their ball on a hot day, doesn’t mean it is necessarily good for them. Indeed, many dogs will still try and continue playing or running even when in the early stages of heat-related problems, so we need to look out for them. This is especially important for dark coloured dogs, entire males, those carrying any excess body weight, and dogs with shortened muzzles such as Pugs and Bulldogs. All these risk factors can increase the chance of developing heat related illness in our dogs.
Always seek veterinary help in the case of a dog with heat-related illness, although immediately cooling affected dogs with cool water is critical. You can find more information about helping your dog keep cool on the Hot Dogs – Heatstroke education for dog owners site.
Travelling with your dog is often an integral part to going on holiday. For many dogs, this is part of the fun. However, some dogs are less keen to travel, or you might be travelling by unusual or unfamiliar means. Sometimes the journeys are much longer than your dog is used to, so again we need to help our dogs and keep them happy.
Regular breaks to stretch legs and go to the toilet are important for dogs and people. If your dog worries when travelling, the use of a covered crate or similar can sometimes help. Air conditioning is worth running in the car on hot days and window screens for shade are useful. Never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle on a warm day – even opening the windows by a small amount makes very little difference to internal temperatures, so don’t take the risk.
If you are unfortunate enough to get stuck in stationary traffic on your journey, make sure to use the recirculation button on your car’s air conditioning, rather than drawing in traffic fumes, and don’t forget to keep a close eye on the internal temperature.
Supporting travelling dogs
If your dog suffers from travel sickness or other travel-related traumas, early training and practice can help. Take short, steady car journeys, and gradually increase their length to get your dog used to travelling. Build a positive association too by making sure travel is not always to places your dog might not really enjoy visiting, and instead, travel means fun things and fun places!
You might consider supporting anxious dogs by introducing ProKalm to their food before any holiday travel or other life changes. In extreme cases, behavioural or veterinary support might be needed, so don’t be afraid to seek help for you and your dog.
Healthy, happy holidays
If your dog is on veterinary medication, make sure you have enough to take with you – you don’t want to be searching for a vet to renew your dog’s prescription away from home. You might also need to ensure that vaccinations, health certificates, deworming and flea/tick treatments are up to date, especially if you are travelling abroad, or your dog is having a holiday in kennels – always make sure you know what you need before travelling.
A tick removing tool is also a great addition to your travelling first aid kit, especially if you are visiting tick-prevalent areas. This means that you can quickly and safely remove any little hitchhikers from your dog (and maybe yourself!) so they don’t spoil your holiday.
Careful preparation can help to make sure your dog has as great and trouble-free holiday as possible, meaning that you both can relax and unwind.
Science Supplements offer a range of high specification, canine supplements to support your dog at home, or on holiday. Our supplements come in handy pouches that are easy to pack with your dog’s other travel essentials. We offer options to support your dog’s joint, skin, and digestive health, as well as for your older or slightly anxious dog.
Explore our canine supplement range here.
Happy summer holidays to all our canine customers!